Tech companies got rid of your free lunch. Now they're coming for your 401(k) and healthcare.

Tech companies got rid of your free lunch. Now they're coming for your 401(k) and healthcare.
Google employees are seen at a company cafeteria. The company has been reducing hours for some on-site cafes.Reuters
  • Tech companies continue to cut perks, and may start lowering 401(k) matches and healthcare benefits.
  • Most employees won't leave their jobs even after losing perks that once defined the tech industry.

Tech companies have long touted lavish office perks like on-site dry cleaning, ice-cream bars, and even paid egg-freezing services to recruit top talent and keep them happy.

Now that's all changing. An economic slowdown has driven many companies to slash jobs and benefits, triggering an identity crisis among some tech workers. The tech sector has cut roughly 200,000 jobs since the start of 2023, according to, a website that tracks the industry's job cuts.

In the meantime, Google has reduced hours for some on-site cafés, and Twitter has cut back on free lunches. Meta employees said the company seemed to be paring back snacks and cereals in cafeterias — after the Facebook owner had already canceled on-site laundry and its Lyft subsidy program. It's not just Big Tech companies either: tech startups and venture funds opted to scale back or scrap lavish holiday parties last year.

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In this new era of austerity, few perks are safe from cuts — and some may never return. Tech companies, in particular, "are preparing for a prolonged period of slowing demand and capital investment, so they're looking at longer-term cuts to benefits," Aaron Terrazas, Glassdoor's chief economist, told Insider.

There's no end in sight for the perk purge, either. Companies will chisel away at these benefits as long as the tighter labor market keeps risks of a talent drain at bay, experts said.


"The floor for companies seems pretty low at this moment," said Daniel Keum, an assistant professor at Columbia Business School. "More perks are going to be taken away, but people won't leave for many reasons, including the current industry downturn where a lot of people are looking for jobs."

But employers should take note: some benefits are more sacred to employees than others.

While many tech workers can get by without free sushi bars or massages, they are much more likely to revolt against changes to financial benefits like 401(k) matches, disability insurance, and healthcare perks, including fully covered egg freezing or deep prescription-drug discounts.

The most important perks

The suite of perks tech companies offer is wide-ranging. This includes the somewhat frivolous, such as restaurant-table booking, and the more financially meaningful, such as generous employee discounts, travel expenses, and education reimbursements.

Keum called the more impactful perks "invisible wages." They are not directly reflected in employees' salaries but make their lives easier and less costly, he said.


The loss of these perks is much more likely to drive away current or future employees. In a May 2 survey of college seniors by iCIMS, a recruiting-software provider, 42% of respondents said they expected employers to offer 401(k) matches, 34% said companies should provide financial planning, and 28% said they wanted a student-loan repayment program.

"Most people ultimately arrive at a pragmatic stance when it comes to what they're giving up and what their alternatives are out there," Terrazas said. "The trickier conversations are ones around remote work, dependent coverage for health insurance, and 401(k) matches."

Experts said that tech companies wouldn't rule out cuts to these financially significant perks, regardless of whether such changes would alienate workers.

The rise of artificial intelligence and the increasing offshoring of work means employees could have a harder time demanding more benefits. And a glut of new coding and engineering talent waiting in the pipeline is set to keep the tech labor market tight.

So if you work in tech, get ready to say goodbye to some of your favorite perks — possibly forever.